I am using following tools for these specific simulations:
- Molten Metal: polygon-rendered Maya Fluid.
- Smoke and mist: Maya Fluid.
- Sparks and dust on air: nParticles.
- Flexible cables, dress and wings: nCloth.
- Female character’s hair: nHair.
- Flowers, leaves, pampas grass, trees and grass: paintEffects.
- Grooming and grass: Maya Fur.
- Glows, flares and volumetric lights.
I create specific shaders for most of the particles and fluids and animate as well as their emitters’ surfaces as intricate interacting force fields.
Rendering in layers and passes allows me to add, e.g. particles reflections later in post-production.